Northfields Way – Work on barriers to begin mid-November. 

The following press release has been issued by Walsall Council this morning:

Walsall Council has now given the go ahead to a £10,000 traffic calming project in Brownhills to tackle continued

anti-social behaviour on the Northfields Way in Clayhanger. In recent years residents of the estate had grown increasingly frustrated by noisy and speeding vehicles, illegal parkers, fly tippers and the general anti social behaviour on this small stretch of road. Despite additional support from the area partnership and residents carefully logging incidents to build a case for more policing in the area, the problems still persisted.
Earlier this year the Area Partnership and Police met with the community to discuss a proposal put forward by the council’s transport team which would see the blocking of Northfields Way at the junction with Allerdale Road as a solution to stop persistent ASB offenders gaining access to the estate. It was seen as the best solution and was supported across all political parties.
Deputy Leader of Walsall Council, Cllr Lee Jeavons said; “Residents and council members will be pleased that we have identified funding to implement this scheme, so that the work on road barriers will now commence in mid November of 2016.”
Blocking the road on the estate will make a real difference to the Brownhills residents. It also sends out a strong message to those who try to blight other people’s lives with persistent anti social behaviour – that it will not be tolerated. “

 

Barriers on Northfields Way – Where are they?

It can not have not escaped any Clayhanger residents’ notice that the barriers proposed for Northfields Way, with the intention of preventing ASB including illegal encampments, have not materialised.

There has been a public consultation, a traffic regulation order and final plans… but where are the barriers?

This has been a question which has been repeatedly asked by Area Partnership Manager Laura Terry and Cllr Wade on many occasions on Clayhanger residents behalf. As their efforts have been to no avail, madwblog has written to Mr Gordon, Head of Change and Governance at Walsall Council, to ask him where the barriers are:

‘Dear Mr Gordon,

As a resident of Clayhanger and a hyperlocal blogger – madwblog.com – I write concerning the proposed barriers for Northfields Way in Clayhanger to prevent ASB and illegal encampments. 
I have had a continued interest in the prevention of anti-social behaviour on Northfields Way since June 2015 when I first discussed my concerns with Cllr Steve Wade. Since then, Northfields Way has been subject to three illegal encampments, regular fly-tipping, ASB involving drug use, motorbike racing, and loitering. Like many residents of Clayhanger, I took active involvement in the Public Consultation events in March of this year and was satisfied when the Traffic Order began and the plans were finally released for the barriers to be erected effectively closing Northfileds Way in an effort to prevent some, if not all, of these issues.
However, there has now been a long delay in work beginning to install the barriers. Even taking into account a change of administration in May, the commencement of work seems long over-due. Residents of Clayhanger continue to be subject to anti-social behaviour on Northfields Way all of which have been duly reported to the Police. Since Laura Terry is well aware of these issues and continues to be supportive of the community in their concerns I trust, as her manager, you are too.
It is interesting to note that only yesterday (29th September) Walsall Council took out an injunction to combat ASB in the borough including illegal encampments. Whilst this, I assume, will give the Council greater powers, could it not also serve to force illegal encampments to split into smaller groups and target areas previously unexplored or unused for some time? Would this make Northfields Way vulnerable to another encampment before the barriers are in place? The subsequent court action and clean-up would be a huge waste of public resources and would undoubtedly enrage the already frustrated community in Clayhanger. 
Having invested in a full public consultation and engaged with Clayhanger residents on this issue I would now expect a date to be set to commence the work. Should there be any reason why this is not the case the residents whom have placed their trust, and recently their votes, in this current administration should be kept fully informed of the situation.
Mr Gordon, I would be most grateful if you could respond to this email by confirming the following:
  1. Funds have been allocated to erect the barriers;
  2. A date is set to commence work which is within a reasonable time frame;
  3. Residents of Clayhanger have the support and commitment of Walsall Council to prevent ASB, including illegal encampments, on Northfields Way.
I look forward to hearing from you shortly,’

Details of Walsall Council’s recent injunction can be found here.

 

30 Days Wild: Day 25 Litter Picking!

Saturday morning at 8.30, brought the beginning of the second Clayhanger Litter pick.

Meeting once more at the co-op carpark, 8 volunteers gave their time to have a ‘Summer Tidy’ around the village.

Litter pickers and bags are provided by Walsall Council Clean and Green and the full bags are collected by Clean and Green at the end of the pick.

After a quick tidy round the co-op and along Northfields Way, volunteers set to work along the hedgerow on Clayhanger Lane towards the bridge. Another team began working down Bridge Street towards The Spot. It was the plan to tackle the litter in the undergrowth at the entrance to The Spot. However, it quickly became evident that this was a much bigger job than the time available and required more intensive support from Clean and Green. Steve Wade, recently re-elected Labour Councillor for Brownhills and Clayhanger, has offered his support in organising this for later in the summer. Perhaps it could be a large community event? Litter pick and BBQ?

The area around The Spot has recently seen some anti-social behaviour and the litter is evidence of this. Due to the thick undergrowth there are several areas where ‘dens’ have arisen. I like a den as much as the next person, but please take your rubbish home with you!

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With half and hour or so left, three of us took to Clayhanger Urban Community Woodland and had a tidy around there. This is a fantastic resource and very popular with local dog walkers who like to keep an eye on what is going on up there. Indeed, I met both familiar faces and a new face belonging to a very friendly lady called Sue and her border terrier who explained that she often comes out with her own litter picker and has a tidy as she walks the dog around the fields and paths of Clayhanger.

It seems that Walsall Council have done some work to clear the drainage ditch, presumably in order to relieve the flash flooding on the Pelsall Road we have seen during the heavy rainfalls recently. Again, some of the thicker hedgerows and ditches are full of rubbish and need some attention.

Stepping into the wooded areas, the sound of the roads nearby is muffled and the sounds of nature are beautiful. An oasis indeed.

image madwblog

image madwblog

It’s surprising how much litter can be collected by 8 people in just under 2 hours. Thirteen bags. A success again. Thank you Clangers. Your village and wildlife love you!

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The next ‘Clayhanger Autumn Tidy’ is Saturday 17th September 2016, 8.30-10.30 am. Meet at co-op car park. See you there.

Day 3: 30 Days Wild – An old favourite.

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Day 3 and one of my favourite walks with the hound. This evening I am joined by The Girl who supplied some of the photographs.

The disused railway line which runs from Pelsall to Brownhills and forms part of the National Cycle Network, is one of our favourite routes. The landscape changes so much in the mile or so along the line and by the time you get to Ryders Mere you could be in the depths of the Countryside.

The development and status of Clayhanger Marshes SSSI is well-known and documented locally having been visited by the rare Hoopoe in recent years. But it’s the ordinary stuff that I like here. There are so many Oak trees along the route that I lost count and many, many small birds diving in and out of the hedge row. I always see a Blackbird or two along here and today was no exception. The brambles are heavy with blossom promising a bountiful harvest come September.

Once you get to Ryders Mere, the noise of the Gulls is great. If you were to close your eyes, you would be forgiven for thinking you were in a Cornish fishing village and not the heart of the Midlands! You couldn’t be further from the sea. The Black Headed Gulls all lined up on the posts were a sight to raise a smile, until they caught wind of the dog! Having walked this route with local birder Chaz, I know there is a rich variety of water birds here, not in the least the Oystercatcher who was not impressed by our presence and circled above us calling until we were well clear of the area. I know we also saw Swans, Canada Geese, Mallards and the Heron, but also several pairs of Tufted Ducks and I think Goosander.

Scores of circling Swifts accompanied us on our return along the railway line diving and wheeling to catch the midges heavy in the air. No sign of any bats this evening, although we were a little early I think. Another time.

Policy on releasing information to the public – a Freedom of Information request to Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council – WhatDoTheyKnow

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Image kindly by P Hummings

Madwblog made two Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests on 20th February 2016 in a letter to Cllr Bird, leader of Walsall Council:

Is it Council policy for the Leader of Council to use Social Media, such as the personal Facebook page of an unelected representative, in order to communicate with the electorate?’

And

‘I wonder if you could explain why the decision to put the barriers on Northfields Way, Clayhanger, in is not recorded on any public documents on the council’s website?’

What Do They Know? is the website which handles FOI requests. It is an open site and all requests are made public.

The returning (delayed) answer to both requests was:

‘…after consulting with the relevant service areas I can confirm that this
information is not held by the council. It is therefore exempt from
disclosure under section 1 of the Freedom of Information act.’

As this is not a satisfactory answer, madwblog has requested an internal review as this is next step in the procedure.

‘Thank you for your reply.

Unfortunately, I am not satisfied with the answer. Does this mean that Walsall Council does not have a social media policy?

I should like to seek an internal review of my request: “Is it Council policy for the Leader of Council
to use Social Media, such as the personal Facebook page of an unelected
representative, in order to communicate with the electorate”’

And

‘Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council’s handling of my FOI request ‘Policy on sharing planning information decisions with the public’.

I do not accept that the Council does not have a policy on sharing planning information decisions with the public.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/p…

Yours faithfully,’

Madwblog has also filed another FOI request ‘Does Walsall Council have a social media policy for employees and representatives of Walsall Council including Councillors and those seeking to be elected as such?’

Again, I shall await a reply.

Source: Policy on releasing information to the public – a Freedom of Information request to Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council – WhatDoTheyKnow

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The Express and Star recently branded Clayhanger as a Beauty Spot which caused some to scoff, some to giggle and others to declare ‘quite right too’.

I am in the latter category. I do think Clayhanger is beautiful. Not just visually, but the spirit of the community has beauty. To quote my 13-year-old daughter “Clayhanger becomes Clayhanger when the sun is out. Everyone comes out and you see people again who have been inside all winter.’ She’s right of course. The sun does bring us out. We tidy our gardens, take the dog on a long walk and stop to chat with neighbours.

This community beauty was certainly demonstrated yesterday (Saturday 19th March) during the first of the community litter picks. Clangers old and new care about Clayhanger and are proud that it is essentially a pleasant and safe place to live. Not perfect at times, and unfortunately some do suffer at the hands of those who want to take what others have. Sadly, long gone are the days when anyone in any neighbourhood can leave the back door open and return later without fear of anyone having entered.

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Image courtesy of Brian Stringer, Local Historian and author of ‘Clayhanger Kid’, shared on Brownhills Bob’s blog. 

Somewhat ironically, it is well-known about these parts that Clayhanger used to literally be a dump. A landfill site. And it smelt. Awful. And there was a pig farm too. That smelt. Piggy. The combined effect was, so local legend has it, horrendous. An old aerial photo shared by Brownhills Bob, prompted much reminiscing. Fortunately, photos capture a visual moment, not a smelly one and so the stench is relegated to memory.

Which reminded me that a friend of madwblog gifted some aerial shots of Clayhanger taken a few weeks back. This seems the perfect time to share them.

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Clayhanger looking south-east towards Shelfield, with Brownhills Tin Man island and the Activity Centre behind. Image kindly by P Hummings.

The water in the top left corner is The Spot with the Old Village beyond. Top middle is the park and running from top right into the centre of the shot is Northfields Way and adjacent on the right is the field where ‘The Clayhanger Two’ occasionally reside. The ‘Westbury Estate’ is top middle with the ‘Bloor Estate’ hazily fading to the top of the image. The canal curves in the bottom right corner and Clayhanger Common takes the bulk of the shot in the bottom left with the ‘black tarmac path’ snaking from the spot and disappearing to the left.

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Clayhanger from the east looking west towards Pelsall. Walsall Wood behind. Image kindly by P Hummings.

Bridge Street leading out of Clayhanger down the centre of the shot. Jones’ House to the bottom left and the New Pool where once there were tennis courts just creeping out of shot to the left. Clayhanger Common to the right with the New Village in two distinct blocks to the top right. Holy Trinity School playground can just be made out in the top centre and Pelsall is just visible in the sun set.

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Clayhanger looking south towards Rushall and Walsall Town. Behind is the Tesco store at Brownhills. Image kindly by P Hummings.

Clayhanger Common in it’s entirity! The black tarmac path running across the middle of the shot with The Spot to the right. The New Village is just creeping into shot, middle right, with the Old Village above it. Centre top is the Maybrook Industrial Estate and Walsall Wood to the top left.

Some may scoff or giggle, but I declare Clayhanger a place of beauty – the camera never lies they say – and I feel blessed to call it my home.

 

 

Northfields Way – final public consultation session this evening.  

Clayhanger Methodist Church, 5.30 – 7.30 pm, Monday 7th March 2016. 

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This evening brings the second of the public consultation sessions into erecting barriers on Northfileds Way. The purpose of the barriers is to bar vehicular access and halt the escalation of illegal encampments, loitering and antisocial behaviour recently seen along this stretch of road. 

The plans for the barriers seem robust and clearly thought out, however, Area Partnership would very much like you to contribute your ideas and views. Laura Terry, of Area Partnership, leads the drop in session and is very approachable and knowledgeable. A warm welcome is guaranteed. 

Amongst the ideas already discussed are speed bumps, a raised central area to stop corner cutting and dog waste bins. If you would like to lend your support to these ideas or offer more of your own, be sure to do so as this evening is the last opportunity to have your say before formal proceedings begin. 

Laura.terry@walsall.gov.uk

Yours…

DSC_0003Dear Mr Cox,

 

I am a Clayhanger resident and I make this complaint on my own behalf. Where I make reference to ‘the residents of Clayhanger’, ‘we’ or ‘our’ it is that I concur with the views of other residents, not that they concur with me or that I represent them in anyway. I have made every effort to be factual in my complaint, but should I be incorrect, I would welcome your advice.

 

I live on the estate off Northfields Way. As you may know, there has been a second illegal encampment on Northfields Way which was moved on Wednesday 10th February. There had been another encampment prior to that and as a Street Champion for Clayhanger, I have made many reports of fly tipping, drug use, the keeping of horses on land adjacent to Northfields Way and loitering over the past 3 years both to the council and the police. I met with Area one partnership in the summer of 2013 to discuss my concerns and have more recently had discussions with Cllr Wade, and before that former Cllr Cassidy, regarding the same.

 

Some months ago, Cllr Wade informed me that the council were viewing proposals to erect some sort of barrier to Northfields Way to stop the loitering, fly tipping and illegal encampments. This was great news but I was well aware that we had to wait our turn to gain access to the limited pot of money.

 

The second encampment seemed to me to be a logical trigger to assess whether the cost of the combined clean ups and legal action would outweigh the cost of the barrier. I was hopeful that ‘our turn’ would come and the barriers would be put up.

 

For the duration of the second illegal encampment, there was much discussion on social media – pages to which I am aware both Ben Brittain and Cllr Ferguson have access and follow – and a petition started by Cllr Wade to bring the need for barriers to the attention of the council. The information I was gleaning through these posts was that Cllr Wade would be pushing to secure the funding for the barriers and that the process for moving the illegal encampment was in place.

 

I was shocked therefore, to receive the attached flier from Cllr Ferguson and Ben Brittain through my letter box on Thursday 11th February stating that funding had been secured on 4th February and that the barriers would be erected in due course. Ben Brittain also confirmed this on his Facebook page. As the news spread through Clayhanger on social media, it soon became clear that there was no official confirmation that this was the case. I have myself read the minutes of the planning meeting from the 4th February on the council website and can find no reference to Northfields Way in this document. I hope that I have been looking in the right place.

 

My complaint is that both Cllr Ferguson and Ben Brittain have deliberately mislead the residents of Clayhanger in the announcement of the securing of funds for the barriers on Northfields Way when it would seem that this is not in fact true. In addition, myself and other residents were annoyed that the information regarding the supposed secured funds was not released on the 4th February when the second illegal encampment was in situ. Had this been known my fears, and theirs, over further escalation of illegal behaviour on Northfields Way, once this second encampment had been moved on, would have been allayed. I cannot know why Cllr Ferguson and Ben Brittain would make this announcement but it would lead to me believe that they would hope to gain some popularity among residents using a highly emotive issue. My belief is further strengthened by Ben Brittain’s post on his own Facebook page, as – I paraphrase – he would not want to disappoint us by telling us about something which might not happen because then we would be upset and annoyed with him. I don’t think that it is for Ben Brittain to make decisions regarding the release of information which would, if it were a fact, be available for public view on the council website.

 

Furthermore, Cllr Wade seemed to have no knowledge of the securing of funds which also raises the question of motive from Cllr Ferguson and Ben Brittain in releasing this information to the residents of Clayhanger. Why would Cllr Ferguson be party to this information, but not Cllr Wade?

 

Cllr Ferguson and Cllr Wade are elected to represent our views. They are not elected to make decisions whether to release or withhold information or to release any statement which cannot be verified as fact. Ben Brittain is not elected to represent anyone as far as I know.

 

Although not part of, but certainly relevant to my complaint, could you advise me on the current situation regarding the erection of a barrier on Northfields Way?

 

Thank you, Mr Cox, for your time and I hope to hear from you very soon.

 

As a matter of curtesy, I have CC Cllr Ferguson and Cllr Wade.

Share and share alike.

DSC_0056Dear Ben Brittain,

I came across your apology to Clayhanger by accident. I acknowledge and welcome it. Although it’s a shame because I nearly missed it. I’m not your friend on facebook Ben Brittain, because I don’t know you and I’ve never met you. So, when you posted on your own page, I didn’t see it because I can’t see your page. That’s a shame. I can see the Clayhanger Now Has a Community Centre Page though. And that’s where I found it because someone else thought it warranted enough interest to share it. You might describe that as ‘sharing information’.

Whilst on the subject of sharing information, I would prefer it if you didn’t decide on my behalf what is ‘good’ for me to know and what isn’t. I would have rather liked it if you had told me about the imminent installation of the barriers on Northfields Way because even if the proposal hadn’t been approved, I would have known that and as a result would have only been disappointed. I’m an adult. I can handle disappointment. But I’m not ‘only disappointed’. I’m cross. Cross is not a pretty look for me. Disappointment is OK, although my pout needs work…

Staying on the subject of sharing information, those who know better where to look than me, seem to think that the council have not yet ‘shared’ their intention to fund the barriers on Northfields Way in any official way. Or at the very least, not on their website. (Maybe the website techy was poorly today. And yesterday. And Wednesday. Perhaps the techy has been poorly all week. Since Thursday 4th! Oh dear, I hope she/he is OK.) Perhaps that’s why your learned friends from the other side of the political pitch didn’t know about it… it hasn’t yet been ‘shared’ by anyone who has the official capacity to ‘share’ it. Oh now that’s confusing because you didn’t want to share it until you were sure, and then we find that no-one else has shared it. Maybe they are not sure either. So I’m not sure what we are sure about.

Oh my, I’m disappointed. I’m pouting.